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80 It comes back for Weepu in the pocket for what should be a chipped drop-goal...it's wide! A Crusaders hand got in there - I think it was Dagg's - and the ball drifts to the left of the uprights. Weepu's fairytale Blues bow is not to be and the Crusaders do what they do so well, they got over the finish line as the victors. What a great start to the campaign as we now await the second game, the Brumbies versus Western Force. Thanks for following!
79 That is what they were hoping for. The Blues have a penalty which can be sent downfield by Hobbs, which he does in quite some style. What a lift that kick to touch will give his trotting forwards! We have our grand finale people. This is it for the Blues...
77 So still the one point separates these two sides in this Super Rugby opener with the clock ticking down and play being stuck on the Blues ten-metre line, home put-in. They need a moment of magic from either Ranger or Toeava from here, surely.
73 The Blues are fighting for ground here as this game reaches its final stages. Thankfully for them they are in opposition territory but then a crooked line-out from McCartney foils any momentum they were hoping to gain. The 'Saders may make them pay.
70 That is poor from Faumuina as he falls on the wrong side of a ruck and gifts the Crusaders 30 metres in territory, which they are sure to use. That they do as first-phase ball sees Freuan come on the switch to make good ground - boy he has been impressive.
67 Here comes another shot at three from Bleyendaal but it seems a bit strange that he chose to go for poles from that distance, seeing as he was short with a closer effort not long ago. On the flip side, they still have territory to try and close this game out.
64 BLEYENDAAL PENALTY! 18-19! Offside is the offence but it could have been a lot worse for the Blues as Dagg got through the first line like a knife through butter. His pass to Freuan was set for the five-pointer but for a superb hit from Toeava.
62 The visitors are not done yet though and with their territory they set up a driving maul about fifteen metres from the home line. Scratch that, Pollock blows for an offence as Mealamu exits the field, McCartney shifts to hooker. This one really is delicately poised.
59 Owen Franks has just earned his side a penalty which the Crusaders will look to turn into three points from about 40 metres out. Here comes Bleyendaal...short!
58 One of the biggest cheers of the night has just come for Weepu's arrival in this game. It looks like he has come on for Hobbs. Blues ball from a scrum on halfway.
56 HOBBS PENALTY! 18-16! Time for a chat now between Kieran Read and Pollock as they go through the dark arts of the breakdown. In truth that is good captaincy as these repeated offences will be starting to worry the Crusaders. Net result, three points.
53 He misses and that leads to a few changes. From what I can see, Crotty goes for Adam Whitelock, Braid for Luke Braid, with Flynn having come on a few minutes ago.
51 That is clever rugby from full-back Toeava as he spots a bit of room in behind to give his forwards a spring in their step. There seems to be a few infringements creeping into the Crusaders' game at the moment as now Sam Whitelock goes off his feet, leading to Hobbs calling for the tee. This is a tough one mind you, 50 metres on the angle for the fly-half...
49 Here come the Crusaders once again with ball in-hand and it's one of their stand-out players, Freuan, who makes the early metres. Nothing comes of that foray though and in fact George Whitelock soon closes the pulls down the jumper at line-out time so it's a double blow to the visitors. Play is on the Blues ten-metre by the way with the hosts in possession right now.
45 This one promises to go right down to the wire and is also set to continue in its end-to-end fashion. On a side-note, number eight Kaino has just smashed young Crusaders ten Bleyendaal in a kind of 'welcome to Super Rugby' manner. That will sting in the morning.
42 HOBBS PENALTY! 15-16! A richly deserved three points for the Blues as they cut the lead in Auckland down to just one point after the Crusaders offended.
Second-half Welcome back to the action where Bleyendaal restarts and the Blues look to begin with a bang. They are going about it the right way that is for sure as Wulf races down the left wing. Great start from the Blues, who had Ali Williams in support of their wing.
40 Unfortunate for the Blues as they are penalised for crossing when it looked like Wulf was set to go in close to the uprights of a slick move. Maybe Pollock was on the money there as there was contact made between the dummy runner and defender. Half-time it is then after what has been a great first 40 of Super Rugby 2012. See you in a few minutes for more!
38 Not long until half-time here and the Blues are looking to apply the pressure on a Crusaders scrum just five metres out from the latter side's line. And they do just that with Ellis slicing his clearing kick into touch. Big chance to go in in front...Mealamu waits to throw-in.
35 What a break-out from Ranger that was. He motored up the middle before the pacey Sean Maitland hauled him down on the visiting 22. Ranger did get an offload away though but it was unsuccessful as the ball trickled into touch off Hobbs' boot, with Wulf eyeing a try.
33 The Crusaders are working their way through the phases in an authoritative manner as they edge inside the home 22. Now they transfer the ball out to the backs...but the ball has spilled out of the resulting breakdown. Here comes that man Ranger on the counter!
31 Just over half-an-hour played at Eden Park and 28 points on the board as we take a brief stoppage for an injury to Mealamu. It looks to be his ankle...he is back up.
30 BLEYENDAAL PENALTY! 12-16! Yes, he did spot the offence and we eventually come back to it, with Bleyendaal again making no mistake from the kicking tee.
28 Could this be the first white card? Hobbs has just taken out Crotty with a head-high tackle and it remains to be seen if Pollock spotted that one. We continue playing.
26 Crusaders line-out on halfway then which is off-the-top to Bleyendaal who goes to the sky and forces a knock-on. Once again this is good field position for the Canterbury outfit to attack..they look to grubber from first-phase, but that ultimately comes to naught.
23 The Blues are now being patient in opposition territory as they go through the phases on the Crusaders 22. They must be wondering how they are a point down in truth.
21 BLEYENDAAL CONVERSION! 12-13! Three from three.
20 FREUAN TRY! 12-11! Oh dear, the Blues cough up possession and that in turn leads to poor defence from the home side, which sees the powerful outside centre ghost in. A successful conversion would see the Crusaders hit the front...this is what they can do to you.
17 That is superb from Andy Ellis. The international number nine shows his experience in finding acres of real estate in the Blues 22. Now, this is where the Crusaders are dangerous, suffocating the opposition with a turnover likely. Nothing silly here Blues.
14 BLEYENDAAL PENALTY! 12-6! Offside again from the Blues though and that sees the ten send through another penalty. He will be happy to have had two relatively easy opening efforts. It gets better for the visitors too as Hobbs puts his restart straight out.
12 Super Rugby is back with a bang! End-to-end stuff that is entertaining, fast-paced and of a high quality. Crusaders ball about 30 metres out from the Blues line here.
9 RAIKUNA TRY! 12-3! Here come the Blues again! After excellent work once again from Ranger, the hosts shipped the ball out to the right wing where Keven Mealamu found the waiting David Raikuna. Second try for the Blues, with the extras wide from Hobbs.
8 BLEYENDAAL PENALTY! 7-3! The Crusaders do have themselves an immediate opportunity to strike back after a well-weighted grubber from Robbie Freuan sees the Blues take the ball over their own try-line for a five-metre scrum. All of which results in a penalty for offside, which Bleyendaal knocks over with ease to cut the lead down to just four points.
6 HOBBS CONVERSION! 7-0! Easy enough for Hobbs.
5 LOWREY TRY! 5-0! Comical stuff as Kaino finds the ball just out of reach as he reached out to dot down but he had Chris Lowrey in support, who goes in for the tournament's first try. Left wing Israel Dagg was the Crusader who had his clearing kick charged down.
3 Massive defence from the Blues early on as they employ the umbrella rush tactic, which forces the error straight off the bat. Blues scrum then just on their own ten-metre.
Kick-off Match referee Chris Pollock blows the whistle and Super Rugby 2012 is underway, with the Blues kicking off and soon returning with interest through outside centre Rene Ranger. This guy surely must be with the All Blacks this season.
Team news Tyler Bleyendaal will spearhead a Crusaders backline, which has Tom Marshall at number fifteen and All Blacks full-back Israel Dagg on the wing. Hooker Quentin MacDonald and prop Ben Franks are preferred to All Blacks Corey Flynn and Owen Franks. Highlanders lock Tom Donnelly gets his first start for the Crusaders.
Team news The Blues have gone for Michael Hobbs at fly-half, who has edged out Piri Weepu and young gun Gareth Anscombe. Elsewhere, Jerome Kaino will pack down at eight while versatile front-row Tom McCartney is at loosehead and Rene Ranger runs from thirteen.
Welcome Until August 4 precious little else will concern rugby fans as the 2012 Super Rugby season kicks off here in Auckland. And what a game we have to start matters as the competition's most successful team, the Crusaders, face-off with the Blues. It should be a close one but with their ability to always produce top performances when it matters, we are going for the Crusaders to sneak it.
|Saturday 25th May|
|Leicester 37 - 17 Northampton|
|Sunday 12th May|
|Saracens 13 - 27 Northampton|
|Saturday 11th May|
|Leicester 33 - 16 Harlequins|
|Saturday 4th May|
|Leicester 32 - 20 London Irish|
|London Welsh 33 - 22 Worcester|
|Exeter 40 - 39 Gloucester|
|Harlequins 22 - 19 Northampton|
|Sale 21 - 20 Wasps|
|Saracens 23 - 14 Bath|
The phoney war is now over, with the real conflict set to get underway at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
The British and Irish Lions suffered their first defeat to Australian provincial opposition in 42 years as they were shocked by the Brumbies.
The British and Irish Lions lost their first match on the 2013 tour after a disappointing 14-12 defeat to the Brumbies.
Read the thoughts and opinions of Stuart Barnes with skysports.com